THE appointment by Bury Council of a ‘strategic advisor’ at the cost of £700 per day has been slammed as ‘impossible to justify’ by opposition councillors.

Bury’s Conservative opposition leader has said the Labour-run council has appointed the expert to advise on the local elections, due to take place in May.

Tory leader Cllr NIck Jones said this is being funded at the cost of £700 per day from the Covid Contain Grant, which the council received from the Government.

Defending the appointment the council says the person has been ‘providing much-needed legal support on a wide range of issues while the director post has been vacant’ and the day rate was agreed after a competitive exercise.

Cllr Jones said the same ‘short-term’ advisor that was appointed in July 2020 to advise on the council’s constitution and now that work was completed virtually, the executives at Bury Council have extended the contract to cover the local elections.

Cllr Jones, said: “The Labour Council in Bury have a long history of spending hundreds of thousands in consultancy fees.

“I question the value for money aspect,

“I am intrigued at how the Labour Council can justify the spend especially from Covid grants.

“This is an extension to an already costly contract awarded in July 2020 which was funded from council reserves.

“The average wage in Bury is £450 per week yet the Labour Council believe it is justifiable to spend £700 a day on an outside consultant who lives nearly 100 miles away.

“The consultant has been in Bury since July and the Conservative Group raised alarm bells then and were assured this was interim appointment and for a specific assignment in rewriting the constitution which was completed last year.

“Labour may believe this is acceptable but I certainly would not approve such a costly appointment from Covid grants, the fee should had been negotiated to a much lower rate if the council so desperately needed support.

“Elections are going to be different this year and Bury is no different than any other town in the preparations that are needed.

“The democratic services team and elections team do a brilliant job in ensuring elections run smoothly.

“This is a kick in the teeth the hardworking council officers that the council have brought in an advisor to help run the election. ”

A Bury council spokesman said: “The Government has announced that, despite the current lockdown and social distancing requirements, May’s scheduled elections are to continue.

“We are therefore making extensive plans to ensure that the voting public, the hundreds of staff working at polling stations and at the count, and the candidates and agents are as safe as possible.

“We have retained an adviser, who has specialist experience in running elections, for a short period to oversee these plans.

“This is pending the arrival of a new director of law and democratic services, who has been appointed but cannot take up their position until late April, just days before the elections.

“There is nothing unusual about employing senior interim staff when there is a vacancy at director level.

“This is not a new appointment, and it’s not just about elections – this adviser has already been providing much-needed legal support on a wide range of issues while the director post has been vacant.

“This includes a comprehensive review of the council’s constitution and electoral ward boundaries, and numerous legal matters affecting the future of the borough.

“The daily payment rate was agreed following a competitive exercise, and is less than the market rate for work of this complexity and significance.”